PARIS, March 12 (Reuters) - Iliad founder Xavier Niel said on Thursday that he did not believe the French telecoms market would consolidate from four to three players as many investors have hoped, citing the unwillingness of Bouygues Telecom to sell.
“I don’t think there will be consolidation... I simply do not believe it,” he said on an analyst conference call.
Number two player Numericable-SFR has said it would be the natural buyer of Bouygues, which has posted losses since Iliad shook up the market by entering mobile in 2012.
There were also three-way talks last year between leader Orange, Iliad and Bouygues over a deal, but they fell apart on issues of price and how to divide up the company among the two buyers.
The billionaire owner of Bouygues, Martin Bouygues, has also declared publicly multiple times that he does not want to sell the telecom unit that was his creation to complement his father’s construction and roads businesses.
In any case, Niel said no deal could take place without Iliad being involved in some way since antitrust authorities could require any other buyer to sell parts of the company to Iliad to preserve competition.
“If we are not the motor on this, then it will not occur,” he said. “It will not happen.” (Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic; Writing by Leila Abboud; Editing by Nicholas Vinocur)